PC Gamer
DreamHack Summer 2014 photo by Rikard S derberg.

Article by Tomi "lurppis" Kovanen.

DreamHack Winter 2014, one of the year's biggest Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournaments, will be held in J nk ping, Sweden on November 27-29, and will play host to the fourth community-funded $250,000 CS:GO major (livestream schedule here). 16 teams will be hoping to remain in competition come Saturday, and in this preview we will take a deeper look at the squads most likely to make a difference.


(flusha, JW, KRIMZ, olofm, pronax)

Champions of the first major a year ago, fnatic changed two players in July and since then have won four of the seven tournaments they have attended, including three dominant victories in a row. They also placed second at the previous major in August. KRIMZ has been their best player recently, but virtually anyone aside from in-game leader pronax can carry them in a series. They are clear favorites going into DreamHack, but their players have been named as suspects in  the recent cheating scandal, which could affect their play even if none of the rumors turn out to be true.


(Happy, kioShiMa, NBK, shox, SmithZz)

Built in the French reshuffle in September, LDLC have made the final in four of five tournaments they have attended. They can t seem to beat fnatic, yet consistently defeat everyone else. LDLC are favorites to reach the semi-finals unless they face their kryptonite early in the playoffs. Happy is the team s in-game leader and a solid fragger, NBK is the most versatile player, and shox is the superstar of the team. They play a skill-heavy style that suits the current counter-terrorist heavy meta-game of CS:GO, but as a result struggle on the terrorist sides.


(byali, Neo, pasha, Snax, TaZ)

Virtus.pro won the second CS:GO major,  EMS One Katowice, but have since then struggled to play at the same level. They won Gfinity 3 in August, but otherwise have mostly crashed out in the quarter-finals of the biggest tournaments. They are known for stepping up during the majors, but a win would require strong play from all three of their heavy hitters, namely pasha, byali, and Snax. The Poles haven t been able to fire on all cylinders since Katowice, but a strong individual showing could propel this team over their competition. They may be the world s best terrorist side team at their peak.


(f0rest, friberg, GeT_RiGhT, Maikelele, Xizt)

The most storied and successful team in CS:GO, they recruited Maikelele to replace Fifflaren earlier this month. Despite winning the most recent major, ESL One Cologne, they have struggled since then. GeT_RiGhT and f0rest are the superstars of the team, and if they wish to make the semi-finals they will need those two to play to their potential—which hasn t been the case in recent months. Their current level remains a mystery as no one has seen them play much with Maikelele, thus adding to the intrigue surrounding the team.


(Edward, GuardiaN, seized, starix, Zeus)

Na`Vi broke out in May with a victory over Titan and NiP at SLTV StarSeries IX Finals, and have since then been a consistent top five team with multiple top four finishes in recent months. Their team relies heavily on star AWPer GuardiaN, though riflers Edward and seized can also take over matches at times, but neither is very consistent. They play a very strategic style with one of the all-time great leaders Zeus running the show.


(Hiko, n0thing, Semphis, sgares, shroud)

After adding shroud, Cloud9 exceeded most expectations with their ESL One Cologne performance, but most recently failed to advance from the group stage at two tournaments in Europe. They have been bootcamping in Europe for all of November, so this is a do-or-die event for this team—it s hard to imagine they will ever get better conditions than now to perform. Their star player is hiko, but n0thing and shroud are just as, if not more, explosive at times.


(cajunb, device, dupreeh, FeTiSh, Xyp9x)

These Danes were one of the most consistent teams in the world for the first eight months of 2014, but have since then seen their level of play, as well as consistency, drop. They removed aizy to bring back former member cajunb, adding more skill to an already skilled lineup that may lack in leadership. Their star player device is one of the most skilled all-around players in the world, but often chokes in big matches. dignitas should be one of the teams competing for a top four finish, and this exact roster made top four at the second major.


(ANGE1, Dosia, kucher, markeloff, s1mple)

HellRaisers are a team who seemingly hold endless potential, but can never realize it in a best-of-three setting, or at the right times. They are incredibly skilled with players such as Dosia, markeloff, and new recruit s1mple leading the way, but lack in team play and tactics. Since their last event they have added well known ex-dAT in-game leader B1ad3 as a coach, so depending on how effective he is we could see a much improved HellRaisers squad at DreamHack.


(AZK, desi, nitr0, Skadoodle, swag)

iBUYPOWER failed to make the playoffs in Europe for a long time despite a few good showings in North America, until finally scoring a second place finish in late October. However, the team was then stripped as they cut their in-game leader DaZeD and another versatile member steel to add two inexperienced players, who likely still need more time. There is a lot of pressure on their star rifler swag, and very skilled AWPer Skadoodle. Making the playoffs would be a good showing for this American side.

Copenhagen Wolves 

(cadiaN, gla1ve, Kjaerbye, Pimp, tenzki)

The second Danish team got into DreamHack Winter through the Last Call qualifier on Saturday, and therefore likely aren t in the best shape going into this tournament. Their biggest strength is gla1ve s leadership and the skills of Pimp and youngster Kjaerbye, but they are not favored to reach the playoffs from their group.

Announcement - Valve
The Steam Exploration Sale is here! For the next six days, take advantage of huge savings throughout the Steam store on thousands of titles. Plus, discover new and recommended games on your personalized Exploration Sale page here. Check back each day for new Daily Deals.

Today’s Featured Deals Include:

The Steam Exploration Sale runs from now until 10AM Pacific Time, December 2nd. Complete information on Daily Deals and other special offers can be found on Steam.

PC Gamer

Admissions of hacking by three professional CS:GO players have cast a shadow of suspicion on the CS:GO competitive scene. The outed players, Hovik "KQLY" Tovmassian, Simon "smn" Beck, and Gordon "Sf" Giry each received in-game bans through VAC earlier this week. The revelations call into question the players past performances, both during online tournaments and at LAN events, where the cheat, which allegedly connects through a player s Steam Workshop, could have been used. For some in the scene, the news also presents the uncomfortable possibility that other professional players have used similar, still-undetected cheats in tournament play.

These revelations could not have come at a worse time for CS:GO e-sports—we re days away from the biggest tournament in the game s history, DreamHack Winter 2014.

Professional CS:GO players have been VAC banned before, but arguably not such high-profile players. KQLY, the most prominent player of the three, admitted in a statement on Facebook (that I ve translated from French using Facebook s integrated tool) that he had used a third-party program for seven days. KQLY denied using the program while he was a member of Titan (during the DreamHack Invitational, for example, which Titan won). As you may have seen yesterday, I was banned by VAC and unfortunately it was justified, KQLY wrote. I wanted to say that I am really sorry for all the people who supported me, I am aware that with my bullshit, my career is now over and my team in a very bad position. They did not deserve it.

When he was offered use of the program, KQLY says, the provider reassured him that many pro players were using it.

This is a cheat that doesn t have anything visible on the screen. The only way you d know if someone did it is if you caught them at the point they installed it on that machine and activated it.

KQLY has been cut by Titan, who along with Epsilon have been disqualified from DreamHack Winter 2014 by the tournament s organizers. Their expulsion is a huge blow to both organizations, who have spent weeks training for a chance to compete for the event s quarter-million-dollar prize pool. Speaking to Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, DreamHack s Head of e-sports Tomas Lyckedal expressed surprise. "I don t think a pro player has been banned like this since 2001. Of course people have been caught cheating but it s always been semi professionals, never established players. And it s a shame it has to happen so close before the tournament, he said. I really hope that this doesn t happen to more teams, but this has to be a clean sport so if it happens then so be it.

Lyckedal also pledged that DreamHack will take special precautions at DreamHack Winter 2014. Playing in Titan and Epsilon s place will be the winners of a Last Call Qualifier organized by DreamHack that takes place on Saturday.

On Friday, Titan issued a statement condemning KQLY s actions. As it did so, Titan also criticized Valve for not working directly with teams to remedy the situation. After KQLY s ban was revealed, Titan says it contacted Valve but was eventually met with dead silence after their initial email exchange. "Valve opted for a unilateral decision, handing out collective punishment with complete disregard for team involvement in the problem solving process. I contacted Valve earlier today for comment but have not received a response.

The nature of the hack

KQLY s ban was preceded by the ban of Simon "smn" Beck on ESEA, a third-party client used by competitive players to find matches and pick-up games. According to ex-pro and HLTV.org contributor Tomi Lurppis Kovanen, Valve contacted ESEA when it learned of the cheat. The bans of KQLY and Sf that followed, it would seem, were a result of Valve updating VAC to detect the cheat that smn used on ESEA.

The cheat in question is allegedly very difficult to detect, so much so it s not out of the question for it to have been used at live LAN events. E-sports commentator Duncan Thooorin Shields took to YouTube (embedded above) to speak about the scandal—primarily to call for calm and an end to the witch hunt for other potential hackers that s overtaken some fans in the scene in the past few days—but he also gave his own explanation for the type of hack that was allegedly used.

It s a cheat that doesn t even have an extreme effect—unless you really abuse it—it has layers to it where it can just give you a slight advantage in aiming, says Shields in the video. So if you re already one of the best players in the world, it ll make it so you just look like you re having your best game. It won t even seem like you re hacking and that was an impossible movement. He continues, This is a cheat that doesn t have anything visible on the screen. The only way you d know if someone did it is if you caught them at the point they installed it on that machine and activated it.

The impact

Titan and Epsilon s disqualification from DreamHack Winter sours the excitement around CS:GO s biggest tournament of the year. For some, the bans have created a cloud of suspicion around other teams and players. Smn, the originally banned player, commented on a livestream on Friday about his ban and the incident, allegedly saying that as much as 40% of the pro scene is using hacks.

Of course, that's one person's statement, and it should not be taken as the certain truth. It remains to be seen whether more players will be VAC banned, and whether Valve will take further action, though some members of the community are already anticipating more bad news. I believe it s important to temper our suspicion and not jump to conclusions that any one team or player is guilty until there s hard evidence to suggest that they cheated.

It s been exciting over the past year or so to watch CS:GO blossom into an e-sport that draws hundreds of thousands of spectators at once. And it s been exciting to see the scene grow to support dozens of players and teams around the world. Fighting the hack-making industry, as we ve previously investigated, is a constantly evolving struggle for studios like Valve, who can t be expected to quash every single assistance program—it s part of the cost of building a popular competitive game. Valve does, however, in cooperation with leagues and teams, have the power to make the punishment for hacking so unpalatable that fewer pros and non-pros would pursue it. Whatever happens next, it s going to make for a fascinating tournament at DreamHack next week.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

A recent study by the PEW Internet Project exposed the blindingly obvious hypocrisy of most people’s attitudes towards online services. We don’t want our privacy compromised, we don’t think big companies can be trusted with our data, and the power of corporations like Google makes us uncomfortable. But despite all these deeply-held and very serious fears, billions of people still use the products involved. So too with DLC in all forms. We bitch and moan, mock the price on twitter, talk about how far games have fallen and then pony up the dough when nobody’s looking. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s new Operation Vanguard is what we’ve let ourselves in for. >

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
There is only sadness in Aztec. Sadness and moss.

Valve shoveled some new maps into CS:GO last week, and a couple of them are quite good. Where do these new P90 playgrounds rank alongside CS capitals like de_dust2 and de_inferno? I took a moment to rate every map in the current build.

A few things:

  • I m excluding maps that aren t in the current rotation (e.g. de_blackgold)
  • I m also excluding Demolition and Arms Race maps, because c mon
  • I m mostly judging these maps by how they play in 5-on-5 Competitive mode, which is how you should be playing CS:GO (regardless of your skill level)

The key criteria here is: Would I play this map instead of the one below it? 




Mirage is your favorite bagel, toasted evenly. Mirage is a warm, unembarrassing hug from your grandmother. Mirage surfaces the best things about CS:GO. Every entry point in Mirage presents interesting, complementary risks and rewards. Pushing cat to B as a Terrorist is a great example of this: you have to smoke the A connector to do it safely, but that action in and of itself expresses your intention to bring the bomb to B. Adjacent map areas, like apartments and underpass, or ladder room and sniper window, have strong relationships to one another. Map timings at mid window, A ramp, the van at B are all deliberately tuned. The bombsites are tough to take and relatively tough to defend, and the CTs have sneaky options to turn defense into offense in apartments, underpass, and palace. Play Mirage.



FMPONE took an average-looking, underappreciated CS map and gave it a gorgeous, high-contrast makeover for Operation Vanguard. The revamp not only gives Season a coherent, original theme for the first time (Japanese laboratory), it also improves how it plays. Patches of bright mustard yellow (on bombsite B) and leaf green (on A) punctuate the sterile white, improving map orientation and making it easier to spot enemies.



CTs have a positional edge on Inferno, but I love that the Terrorists have plenty of options for outsmarting, out-aiming, or overwhelming them. And I love the way Inferno challenges you to throw smart grenades. When and whether to smoke mid, or how you flash into B takes intuition and practice. A series of T-shaped intersections facilitate this: mid, arch, at the banana exit to bombsite B. And unlike hilariously one-sided maps like Aztec, the CTs must make hard decisions about which areas of the map they feel comfortable giving up, like boiler or the busted car inside banana.



The Toyota Camry of Counter-Strike. Dust2 is reliably fun but a victim of its own popularity. It has the easy to learn, hard to master quality we value in games, with the sniping lane down mid being a great example of the latter. Re-taking bombsite B, despite three entry points, is satisfyingly tough for the CTs. Both teams have to hurry to occupy the junction at long A, a perfectly-timed early-round flashpoint. It s wonderful. Can everyone stop playing it, please?



Cache is delicious oatmeal: a bit bland, but healthy. No corner of Cache is superfluous—its uncomplicated three-lane structure is gimmick-free. The tiny vent entrance to B is about as unconventional as Cache gets. That leaves us with a pure competitive map—it couldn't be more obvious that Cache was co-designed by a pro player.



Office is simpler than a one-color Rubik s cube, but I have a lot of affection for this comforting camper s paradise. Blowing holes in the mundane, corporate setting remains a big part of the appeal. Shoulder-peeking and entry grenades are the name of the game for the CTs: Office is about small-scale execution of these maneuvers rather than larger map-level tactics, and I like its focus for that reason, but it s also a map that ll earn you bad habits if you overplay it.



I m still getting the hang of Facade. I like its raised ledge at mid, which overlooks a pair of dust2-like double doors, forming a treacherous no-man s land. I like the complex configuration of bombsite B, and that it s countered a bit by open windows that beg to have flash grenades thrown through. On the other hand, rotation from one bombsite to another is cumbersome and slow, especially from A to B.



I guess it s possible for Nuke to be more CT-sided than it already is. For instance, the Terrorists could spawn inside a room filled with hungry cobras, or inside an Olive Garden that s just run out of breadsticks. Nuke s mid-less configuration and the rafters above A put the Terrorists at a major disadvantage. There s also some lingering sound problems on the map, especially with Z-axis audio behavior. Despite these issues, it remains a mainstay: the same asymmetry that makes it tough for the Ts gives it a unique feel: no other map stacks its bombsites atop one another, for example.



Do you even yoga, bro? This is actually a really nice gym. But it kind of looks like a school? Anyway, Workout is a colorful three-lane map with some interesting stuff happening around T spawn (an awkward middle stairway; a pool area with plentiful hiding spots). I ve had enjoyable rounds on Workout, but mid, the long lane to T spawn, and the middle fountain area are a bit too spacious for 5-on-5 play. It can suck the fun out of the map if the hostages spawn closely together, too. I also don t like how viable the autosniper can be for Ts on this map, but Workout gets points for style and color from me.



Overpass' unusual layout is both its appeal and a tiny shortcoming, I think. B is one of the most unique bombsites in the game, an exposed concrete perch that the CTs have an elevated line of sight on. The map prompts plenty of tough decisions: A is tougher for the Ts to take but easier to hold. CTs can set themselves up to flank if they scout the tunnel connector aggressively, which can be countered if one or two Ts lurk silently there.



No classic CS map is more argued over than Train. For many matchmakers it s a mainstay, but some displeased players have gone so far to revise the map themselves. One thing s certain: the Terrorists face rough odds on bombsite A—even rushing at full speed, the CTs are always able to put themselves in a better position more quickly. Dark areas in the train tunnels put the Ts at further disadvantage. For better and worse, the map takes a ton of coordinated grenades to solve on the Terrorist side, making solo-queueing on it a pain.



My rounds on Marquis have been inexplicably positive, despite all the late-round wandering the map inspires. Terrorists face a collar-tuggingly terrifying route to A on this Operation Vanguard newcomer: long, narrow, and then uphill. B isn t much better, a bite-sized bombsite that s unusually vulnerable to frags and firebombs from three potential entrances. Some of the hiding spots and elbows underground feel pointless to me. The subway setting is at least a convincing combination of weathered graffiti and loose equipment.



I ve been having an okay time with Bazaar since it released last week. It s a conventional three-lane map with an AWP-friendly mid, albeit with a couple variations: its connectors are weird (like the S-shaped zig-zag from mid to B), and mid has a left- and right-side entrance for both teams. One thing that s missing here is some decor: Bazaar is 80% unpainted walls and grey brick, giving the map an unfinished feel. More landmarks would inspire better map callouts, too.



CS 1.6 map Backalley has found its way back into the game. I enjoy Backalley a lot in casual play, where throwing bodies at chokepoints to solve problems becomes standard tactics. In 5-on-5, though, the map s vertical areas become pretty superfluous. I like the urban, vagely criminal feel of it, but its biggest issue from a competitive standpoint is that the CTs only have one narrow, deadly entry option on either side.



Dust2 s big brother has effectively been retired from competitive play altogether, and these days it s valued for its nostalgia. The route alterations Valve made to Dust when CS:GO released were welcome, but no amount of reengineering can change the fact that both bombsites are absolutely buried in CT turf. It s a piece of history, but hasn t held up as well as most of CS stock maps in Global Offensive.



Assault is the siege-iest of CS' campy hostage maps. The CTs' entry options are universally bad, clumsily mitigated in CS:GO by the addition of glass windows on the facility rooftop. Pressure through these skylights forces the Ts to turtle even more, opening up chances for braver CTs to break through the front and back doors. There's not much for Ts to do here but make like paranoid conspiracy theorists and point their guns at their own doors.



Like Assault, rounds of Italy drag on longer than seasons of Dragon Ball Z. Valve tried to lure lazy Terrorists away from the hostage house by moving one of the prisoners into the wine cellar near the center of the map, but old habits die hard: Italy is still a haven for selfish snipers. Though it d definitely be higher up on this list if the Pavarotti song that played on the radio in CS and CS:S hadn t been cut from the map, presumably for copyright reasons. Lawyers make bad map designers.



Huitzilopochtli, Aztec god of multiplayer maps, is not pleased. Someone at Valve clearly didn t make the correct sacrificial offering. In anger, Huitzilopochtli conspired to give CTs every conceivable advantage: bombsites that are steps away from CT spawn, a bridge that crosses the open air, a horrific ramp, and double doors that open out into two AWP lines for the Terrorists. Temple of Doom indeed.



Hey, I ve got an idea: let s make a map with a massive courtyard overlooked by sniper nests that no one will ever, ever use. Cobblestone in its current form has no business being in the competitive rotation. The action strictly happens around the bombsites, where the Ts have to make treacherous crossings in the open in order to plant the bomb. That said, this moment by f0rest was one of my favorites from the ESL One Cologne tournament.



Militia s days as a charming pub map in CS 1.6 are well dead. Its art embraces the hostage theme in a way I like (sewers, creepy sheds), but the extensive modifications Valve made to the front yard are messy, and they haven t done much to make Militia more than a misshapen sniping arena. 5-on-5, you can go multiple rounds without seeing anyone depending on which route you take.



Moms don t let their babies grow up to design square-shaped maps. Vertigo s OK as a meat-grindery, 12-on-12, casual romp, but as a competitive map it invites no interesting tactics or tough decisions. Let s review the Terrorists options: 1) attack up an exposed ramp 2) attack up an exposed stairway. There s no backtracking, secondary routes, or opportunities for trickery: just two teams headbutting. Don t.
Community Announcements - CS:GO Official
This operation features unlimited free access to a collection of six top-rated community maps, and introduces Campaigns – a new and rewarding way to play CS:GO. Forge your own path through a series of missions, earning extra Operation Vanguard Cases or weapon drops as a reward.

With your Access Pass, you can complete two missions per week in the two Campaigns included with the pass. If that’s not enough, you can take on optional Campaigns that will allow you to complete additional weekly missions and will send you farther across the globe. Complete a sequence of missions within a Campaign to earn Challenge Stars and upgrade your Operation Vanguard Challenge Coin!

In addition to campaigns, you’ll get a Competitive Scorecard to track key stats from all of your play in official competitive matches on Vanguard and Active Duty maps throughout the operation. Check out the Friends Leaderboard, and find out how you stack up against your friends.

Arms Race Update

Arms Race gets an overhaul with new rules and three maps previously restricted to Demolition mode. Will you charge through the weapon progression, or focus on taking down the enemy team’s leader? Check out this Arms Race Guide for all the info on the Arms Race update.

All this and more (including a new map in Demolition mode!) in today’s update, so what are you waiting for? Your Operation begins now!

See detailed update notes here.
PC Gamer

Time again for Valve to unleash CS:GO players upon six newly chosen community maps. Operation Vanguard is the fifth such event, and is now available for purchase. With it, you'll not only get official server access to the community maps, but also a new "Operation Campaigns" system.

"A Campaign is comprised of a series of missions," explains Valve. "Completing a mission results in a Vanguard case drop, or a random drop from an existing weapon collection. Complete a sequence of missions within a Campaign to earn Challenge Stars and upgrade your Operation Vanguard Challenge Coin."

In addition, Arms Race mode has received an update—adding new rules and three new maps. To see a run-down of the how the mode now works, head over to Valve's official guide.

Vanguard is available now. For a full explanation of its changes, charge over to the Operation's micro-site.

PC Gamer

Evan writes about FPSes each week in Triggernometry, a mixture of tips, design criticism, and a celebration of virtual marksmanship.

CS:GO is, in plenty of ways, a game about playing with your opponent's expectations. How long it takes players to reach a key chokepoint from their spawn is a fixed variable—running at full speed, it's impossible for Terrorists to beat the CTs to bombsite B on Mirage, for example.

Those expectations form the basis for your tactics as a team and the decisions you make. But there are some clever ways to play with them, to use your opponent's expectations and assumptions against them. And what better time to do so than on an eco round, when your team has very little to lose? The highlight above was a lucky eco round we pulled out by playing a little unconventionally. The round was actually a turning point for our team: we started the game down 0-6, and went on to win.

PC Gamer

MLG has announced that its first Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament will take place at X Games Aspen, which will also mark the first appearance of videogames at the event. The top eight CS:GO teams from North America and Europe, determined through online qualifiers, will compete in the tournament, which will be broadcast online on MLG.tv, with highlights aired during X Games television broadcasts on ESPN and ABC.

"2014 was a breakout year for eSports with the first ever MLG tournament at X Games Austin, millions watching competition on MLG.tv, and more than 71 million people competing in or watching eSports events around the globe," MLG co-founder and CEO Sundance DiGiovanni said in a statement. "Our X Games debut was such a success we knew we had to continue the tradition. The MLG X Games Aspen Invitational will further elevate eSports placing our top competitors amongst the best winter athletes in the world."

MLG's X Games Aspen Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Invitational will begin on January 23 and run through to its gold medal finale on January 25. X Games attendees who want to watch the action live will require a "premium pass," purchasable from the MLG Store for $100, which includes reserved seating, a behind-the-scenes tour, a gift bag of MLG merchandise, and more.

Preceding MLG's event is the Dreamhack Winter 2014 event, which kicks off on November 27.

Community Announcements - CS:GO Official
To All Workshop Submitters,

We've recently updated the workshop submission tools for CS:GO, and as a result the process for generating a new (or modifying an old) submission has changed.

If you are updating a prior submission or generating a new submission:

1) Launch CS:GO
2) Open the console
3) type 'workshop_publish' and press enter.

Thanks, and keep up the great work!

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